Laziness is contagious. Here’s why that’s good news

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In their never-ending quest to master the subject, French researchers recently determined that laziness is contagious.

If your co-workers tend to take things slow and easy, you’re likely to pick up on their body language, pace, and other cues, and slow down.

It’s like yawning. When someone else does it, you’re likely to do it, too. Humans are apparently wired to mirror the behavior of those around us.

Anyway, why is this good news? It’s good news because if laziness is contagious, the inverse must also be true. Hang around people who work hard and get things done and you’ll be more likely to do the same.

I used to work with a guy who filled his days with non-stop meetings and phone calls. I spent a day with him once and his pace was exhausting. Just when I thought it was time to wind down our day, off he went making more calls.

I’d never be able to keep up with his pace but if we worked together every day, I’m sure I would get more done than I usually do. Just as laziness is contagious, so is industriousness.

In the study, the researchers asked participants to perform certain tasks in front of other participants. They also tested for traits like risk-taking and patience. They found that most of the participants adjusted their behavior to coincide with what they saw other participants do.

Clearly, our environment plays a significant role in our performance.

This is consistent with the “Law of Association,” which says we become like the people with whom we associate most. We adopt many of their habits, opinions, and behaviors. Our achievements and income tend to parallel theirs.

Think about the five people you associate with most and you’ll probably see that this is so.

The lesson is that if you want to achieve more, you should spend more time with high achievers. If you want to increase your income, insinuate yourself into the lives of people who earn more.

Spend more time with people who have what you want and less time with people who don’t.

Learn how to get more referrals from someone who knows how to get more referrals

 

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Do less

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You’re smart. Good at your job. Successful. But you want to be more successful so you do what most people do, you look for ways to do more.

More clients. More projects. More work.

To fit it all in, you look for ways to work faster and get bigger results.

You get busier and busier. You have less time and more stress. You’re frustrated because you’re doing more but not achieving more.

You’ve reached a point of diminishing returns.

It’s time for a different approach.

Instead of doing more, do less.

Take things off your calendar and to-do list. Start fewer projects. Make fewer commitments. Have fewer conversations.

Make room for what’s important and what you do especially well.

You’ll have more time to do more important things and more time to build on your strengths. You’ll have more energy, less stress, and fewer distractions. You’ll make fewer mistakes, waste fewer hours, and make better decisions.

You’ll build stronger relationships with key people. You’ll complete projects that take you to higher levels.

You’ll achieve more by doing less.

Get busy doing less.

Work smarter. Leverage your professional relationships to get more referrals

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Walk a mile in the other guy’s pants

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Whenever I set up IKEA furniture, the first thing I do is take everything out of the box, spread it out on the floor, and examine and count all of the parts. I make sure I have everything I’m supposed to have before I begin.

Then, I turn to the first page of the instructions and start with step one.

This helps me work quickly and ensures that I don’t leave anything out.

I followed a similar process in my law practice, using forms and checklists to open and close files, manage documents and correspondence and the calendar, and otherwise make sure I didn’t forget anything. (No computers, then. Fun times.)

I’ve seen more than a few attorneys who don’t do use forms or checklists. When they interview a new client, they grab a legal pad and start asking questions.

When I have a writing project, anything longer than a few pages, I organize my ideas and notes and write a simple outline before I begin. Some writers prepare highly detailed outlines, while others prefer to start with nothing more than an idea.

Some are plotters. Some are pantsers—writing by the seat of their pants.

The point is that everyone has their own way of doing things. Do what works for you.

But. . . do yourself a favor. Make a point of looking at the methods used by other people and try some of them.

If you usually fly by the seat of your pants in your work flow, give checklists a try. If you’re organized to a fault, try winging some things. If you follow a specific task management system or have a preferred writing app, try some others every once in awhile.

Your way may work for you. But you might find something that works even better.

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How to slash your workday in half

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What if you could get all of your work done in four hours a day instead of eight (or ten?)

Crazy, right?

Maybe not. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, provides evidence to support the idea that working less makes you more productive.

I know that when I had an epiphany in my career, I was able to cut my work week from fifty hours to just fifteen. I showed up at the office three days a week, worked five hours, and got everything done.

As amazing as that sounds, what was even more amazing was that my income went up dramatically.

Was it because fewer hours forced me to get better at prioritizing? Was it because I didn’t have time to waste so I didn’t waste any? Was it because I “let go” of my need to do everything myself and got better at delegating? Was it because coming in late and leaving early allowed me to miss traffic, which meant I had less stress and more energy? Was it because I had more time to read and better myself, and more time for marketing?

Yeah, it was all of those things.

If you are self-employed and would like to work less and earn more, I encourage you to try it. Don’t reject the idea because it is counter-intuitive or goes against a lifetime of experience. If working fewer hours worked for me, why couldn’t it work for you?

Give it a month. If it doesn’t work you can change back. But maybe you won’t want to. Maybe you will realize that you really can get your work done in less time. Maybe your life will never be the same.

You can go “cold turkey” and tell your staff your new schedule, or you can ease into it. Start by working a half day on Friday, for example, and go from there.

C’mon, you know you want to do it. You just need to give yourself permission. Ask yourself, “What would I have to do to make this work?” Gnaw on that for awhile and let your subconscious mind come up with the plan.

What will you do with all that free time?

One key to earning more and working less: more referrals

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How to make your work less boring

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When we were kids, every day was an adventure. We had fun doing things we saw on TV, read about in books, or could conjure up in our imaginations. One thing we never imagined, however, was doing the same thing for the rest of our lives.

And then we went to law school.

We settled into a career that demands focus. We do the same things every day, getting better at our jobs, but for many lawyers, that job eventually becomes boring.

If you find yourself bored with your work, here are three things you can do:

Delegate the boring parts

Some parts of the job are more interesting than others. By getting others to do most of the routine, boring work, you’ll free yourself up to do the more stimulating and challenging work.

Work less/do other things

Delegating and outsourcing will free up time. You can free up even more time by using strategies and tools that streamline your workflow and make more efficient.

You can use some of the time you free up to pursue outside interests: hobbies, a side business, charitable work, or anything else that excites you.

Your work may still be boring but you’ll have enough other things going on in your life to keep you stimulated and fulfilled.

Find fulfillment in the work itself

Ultimately, the best way to avoid boredom is to find fulfillment in the work itself. One of the best ways to do that is to continually take your practice into new markets where you will learn new things and meet new people.

In addition, challenge yourself to continually acquire new skills and improve your existing ones.

Finally, make sure you continually set new goals that force you to stretch and grow.

Not only are these strategies good for business, you will never be bored because every day will be a new adventure.

One of the best ways to earn more and work less is to get more referrals

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Adventures in bright shiny object land

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My wife and I were at IKEA a few days ago, buying an ottoman for a side chair in my home office. While we were there, I fell in love with a desk by the name of Fredde.

I wasn’t shopping for a desk but Fredde called out to me and he was awesome looking. I wrote down his name and when we got home I went to the IKEA site and looked at measurements and photos and imagined how Fredde would look in place of the folding table I now use.

Oh yeah, I’m getting this desk.

I watched several set-up videos, seeing how others have configured their Fredde desk. It seems to be popular with gamers, ostensibly because it allows you to keep everything you need close at hand. It is tall and works well in smaller spaces.

But I don’t have a small space and I’m not a gamer. I asked myself if the desk would help me be more productive. The answer was, probably not.

There are a couple of features that might help, like a cut out in the front that would allow me to get closer to the monitor, but to be honest, the main reason I like the desk is that it is incredibly cool.

What did I do? I watched more videos, of course. Videos about desks, chairs, and office layouts. That led to videos about ergonomics–chair position, monitor height, keyboard best practices, and so on.

Crazy? Probably. But that’s how I roll.

After watching all of those videos, I realized that I already have everything I need. My current setup isn’t cool but it is functional. It’s also spacious and uncluttered and gives me a sense of order.

So now I’m thinking I don’t need Fredde.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with getting something just because you want it, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

How many referrals did you get last week? Here’s how to get more

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You don’t have time to do it? That’s why you must do it

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Go through your task and project lists and zero in on the ideas you have tagged “someday/maybe” or otherwise designated as “low priority”. As you look at these ideas again, you’ll realize that many of them will never see the light of day, nor should they. They were passing notions that don’t merit a second look.

But some of your ideas are awesome.

Some of your ideas could transform your life and take you to new heights or in new directions. You know the ideas I’m talking about. They’re the ones that give you a rush when you think about them.

You’ve put them on a “someday” list because, you’ve told yourself, you don’t have time for them right now.

Unfortunately, while you’re waiting for “someday,” many of your best ideas will rot away in the recesses of your software or on the tear-stained pages of your journal. Let’s face it, given the current state of your busyness, the most likely fate for most of these ideas is an ignominious death.

So, here’s a thought. Since these projects have a potentially huge payoff, how about putting some of them at the top of your list?

You tell yourself you can’t. You have other things to do, bills to pay, deadlines, responsibilities. You love these ideas but you have to be practical.

But that’s not the real reason. The real reason you don’t put these life-changing projects at the top of your list is that they scare the poop out of you.

You might screw up and your dream will go up in smoke. Or you might get it right and your life will change in profound, and profoundly frightening ways.

Well buckaroo, my advice to you, and to myself because I’m guilty of this too, is to realize that “someday” may never come and you might never have another time (or a better time) to find out what might be.

Therefore, choose one of these projects and do it anyway.

Pretend you do have the time and get started.

If you feel yourself resisting, suck it up and do something (anything) related to that project. . . for five minutes.

Because you can’t tell yourself you don’t have five minutes.

Write a few notes, organize some materials, set up a new project folder.

There. You’ve started. It feels good, doesn’t it? You’re all tingly inside.

Tomorrow, do another five minutes. Or ten. Or an hour, once you get excited and start to taste the future.

Here’s a project that could take your practice to another level

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A simple way to get rid of clutter

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I know someone who’s computer desktop perpetually looks like it was the site of a bombing run. Every inch is covered with shortcuts, downloads, documents, and set-up files. She has multiple copies of jpegs and pdfs, because she wasn’t sure if the original downloaded properly, or she couldn’t find it.

I don’t know about you but I couldn’t function that way. I’m not a clean freak. I just find it easier to get things done when my work space is reasonably uncluttered and organized.

And yet there are times when my desktop gets messy. When that happens, the first thing I do is gather up everything and put it in a new folder.

Out of sight, out of mind.

The next step is to clean out the folder and put things where they belong. I might do this right away but I usually do it later, when I have some downtime.

Doing it this way allows me to quickly get back to work. When I’m ready to tackle the folder, I’m able to take my time and make better decisions about what to keep and where to put it.

Okay, maybe I do have some issues.

Anyway, if you find clutter distracting or it impairs your productivity, you might give this method a try.

You can do the same thing in the physical world. When you have too much clutter on your desk–papers, files, books–put everything into one or two piles and when you’re ready, chop those files down to size.

If you have a messy closet, put everything into boxes as the first step. Later, go through the boxes deliberately, putting away the things you know you need and getting rid of everything else.

You can do the same thing on your smartphone. If you have too many apps, put them all into digital folders or push them to another screen. Or delete everything. Only put back (or re-download) the apps you know you will use.

De-clutter first. Organize second.

I keep my digital world organized with Evernote

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How to overcome procrastination and train your brain to resist distractions

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I was watching a video about how to overcome procrastination. The presenter talked about the Pomodoro technique which I sometimes use to help me focus, particularly on tasks I’m avoiding.

Basically, you set a timer for 25 minutes (or whatever you choose) and work until the timer goes off. You then take a break for five minutes and go at it again. If you’re still not done after three or four sessions, you take a longer break and then get back to work.

The idea is to get ourselves to focus with the promise that we only have to do it for a short period of time. It gets you started, which is the hardest and most important part of getting anything done.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself procrastinating on certain tasks, get yourself a Pomodoro app or use your kitchen timer and give it a whirl.

But here’s the thing.

Even though you have promised yourself to keep working until the timer sounds, if you’re like most people, you will be tempted to stray. You’ll feel the urge to check your email or take a peak at social media. Or you’ll realize you need another cup of coffee. Or the phone will ring and you’ll feel compelled to at least see who is calling.

You know you must resist these urges but sometimes they get the better of you.

The video presented a simple technique for conquering these urges and resisting distractions. Have a sheet of paper handy, or open a text file, and whenever you feel tempted by the urge to do something else, write it down.

Writing it down allows you to acknowledge the urge and postpone it until your next break. It helps to dissipate the urge and release its hold over you.

It also allows you to identify things that typically distract you. You can then take steps to eliminate them before they can distract you by doing things like turning off your phone or closing browser tabs that don’t relate to your work.

Write down (and postpone) your urges and you will become their master instead of their servant.

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How much time should you put into each project?

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I recently read an article about the best way to pay down your debts. Logic dictates that you should pay more towards the balances with the highest interest rates. According to something called the “Snowball Method,” however, it’s better to first pay off the accounts with the smallest balances.

Paying off small balances tends to have a psychological effect on your sense of progress, providing additional motivation to pay down the rest of your debts.

Years ago, when I had several credit cards with varying balances and interest rates, I intuitively made an effort to do just that. Instead of making a proportionally bigger payment on accounts with bigger balances and higher interest rates, I focused on paying off the $500 department store balance, first.

It simplified bill paying and, more importantly, it felt good to see those accounts zero out. I still had the bigger accounts to contend with but overall, it felt like I was making progress.

Does the “Snowball Method” apply to anything else? I suspect it does. If you have five projects on your plate right now, in determining how much time to give each project, it would be logical to consider the potential payoff of each project. Projects with a bigger payoff should get more of your time, one would think. But that would ignore the psychological impact of completing some of the smaller projects, first.

I know, almost every expert says we should do the most important things first so that we make progress on them, and only then work on the less valuable tasks. (Big rocks first.) Hell, I’ve preached that myself.

But we’re human and sometimes we need to do smaller things so we can cross off them off our list and have a sense of progress.

Building your practice is easier when you know The Formula

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